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'Career Profile: Life Coaching'

by Analee Matthews BA (Rec)

Australian Fitness Network Magazine


Australian Fitness Network Magazine coverHave you ever dreamt about building a career in the fitness industry that extends beyond working in a gym or training clients? There are many career opportunities now available that were not there a few years ago. This is the first in a series of career profiles that will examine the job opportunities that are emerging as the fitness industry continues to strengthen and diversify.

Life coaching has only emerged in Australia over the last two years, but already it is becoming a buzz word of the new millennium, and a viable and lucrative career path for fitness professionals. Originating from the United States, life coaching means to help someone achieve success in all areas of their lives, not just fitness. It is the role of the life coach to work with their client to set specific goals and implement strategies to achieve these goals. People seek life coaches to improve certain areas of their life, whether it be to improve their financial position, secure a more fulfilling job, or make a relationship change.

Life coaching works with people's mindsets, but is different to counselling or therapy. Traditionally, therapy and counselling address issues from the past, whereas life coaching examines the here and now and the creation of a desired future.

What skills/experience are needed?

There are definite similarities between life coaching and fitness leadership. Effective life coaches possess the genuine desire to help people achieve goals, and they have the ability to motivate, communicate, empathise, and keep an open mind. As most fitness professionals 'walk their talk', so too should life coaches. Richard Day, owner of Melbourne-based life coaching company Richard Day and Associates, has an extensive background in health and fitness management and he believes fitness professionals often possess the fundamental skills to make successful life coaches. 'They are passionate about helping people stay healthy; they have a real interest in the welfare of clients; and they're already selling something that has a lot of integrity', he says.

How much do you get paid?

Life coaches earn between $100 to $300 per hour. Sessions range from 30 minutes to an hour, and some coaches ask their clients to commit to a minimum one month of coaching, while other coaches allow their clients to dictate the frequency of the sessions.

How do you find clients?

Clients generally find coaches. Most clients locate coaches through word-of-mouth or in response to publicity, often received through published articles. Popular women's magazines and weekend newspapers have profiled life coaching in recent times, and the internet is rife with web sites featuring overseas based life coaches. David Wood, owner of SolutionBox™ based in Sydney and New York, receives much of his business through his web site, and it won't be too long before other Australian based coaches and coaching companies realise the benefits of cyber exposure.

Do you have to work out of an office?

There is no standard practice, as it varies from coach to coach. David prefers to conduct his sessions over the telephone and via e-mail, as he believes this is the most convenient and effective method, especially for clients who live interstate/overseas or who are time-challenged. In contrast, Richard prefers to conduct face-to-face sessions, allowing clients to elect the location of the session. 'This ensures the client is in a comfortable environment, and having visual contact with the client allows me to pick up on body language signals and create a stronger bond between myself and the client', he says.

Is life coaching a full time job?

Life coaching is often undertaken on a part time basis, as the number of clients dictates the hours of the business. One of the big pluses for this career is that life coaches can dictate their own hours, so coaching sessions can easily be fitted in around other jobs like personal training or teaching classes.

Are there training and accreditation requirements?

Currently the life coaching industry is largely unregulated, which means there are few checks and balances for quality control. The International Coach Federation (ICF) and the International Coach Federation of Australasia are the accreditation bodies for the coaching industry, but their guidelines are not mandatory. The ICF accreditation requirements are very stringent, demanding 750 paid coaching hours, 125 coach training hours, five coach references, written and oral examination and ten hours of supervised coaching over a three month period.

Accreditation and training programs for life coaches are available in Melbourne through Richard's company, Global Guidance. These programs focus on self-development and inner contentment, which are areas requiring constant development in order for life coaches to effectively practice their trade. The accreditation process through Global Guidance is similar in structure to the process for fitness professionals, offering numerous modules, ongoing training and different levels of accreditation. The first step is a 2.5 day live-in program with experiential learning, accommodation and meals included, for $495. Additional training for those who decide to pursue life coaching requires an investment of two installments of $495 each, which brings people up to the point where they can market themselves, take appointments and coach clients.

Alternatively, David provides a program called Coach Start, which is designed to give people hands-on, practical experience of life coaching. The program costs $500 per month for three months and operates under a mentor system involving four 30-minute sessions per month and fieldwork requirements. For people wishing to become life coaches, David suggests a minimum dedication of three hours and a maximum availability of twelve hours per week is needed. David also runs practice coaching classes in a teleconference format: for $120, people receive a phone number to dial into and a pin code, which provides access to four weekly teleconference calls where coaches can engage in audio role play.

What is the future of life coaching?

As fitness clubs increasingly move towards becoming total wellness centres, life coaching is rapidly becoming a viable consideration as a means to increase service and value for members. It is predicted that one day in the future life coaches will be as accessible in fitness centres as personal trainers are today.

For more information on life coaching check out:

Case Study: A Life Coach in Training

Jacqui Grant is a fitness leader training to become a life coach.

Name: Jacqui Grant
Age: 26
Occupation: Personal fitness trainer and massage therapist
Background: Corporate trainer focusing on general health and fitness, weight loss and injury rehabilitation

How did you hear about life coaching?
I came across life coaching about a year ago, after reading about it in a magazine, and later attended a seminar on the topic at a Network convention.

Does your fitness leadership background help your life coaching?
Definitely. A good fitness leader should be constantly setting goals for their clients in a health and fitness context and a life coach does the same for the bigger picture. Generally, people who get involved in the fitness industry have a genuine interest in making a difference in people's lives on a health and fitness level - it's very rewarding to see the same sort of results in other areas of people's lives.

What are the similarities between fitness leadership and life coaching?
Trying to move people out of their comfort zone. When training people, I try to effectively bring about new highs in what people achieve while they are training, and the same applies to coaching. It's also about making clients feel accountable for what they have decided to focus on in their life, the same as fitness training - the client set the focus and the trainer implements the strategy to reach these goals as effectively as possible.

Why do you want to be a life coach?
Coaching goes hand in hand with the other areas I specialise in. In fitness training, the focus tends to be on the body alone, but I respect that the body can't be in balance if the mind isn't. Being a life coach also opens the door to a more versatile work environment, like working from home without the 6 am starts!

What steps should a fitness leader take to become a life coach?
To become a life coach, the first step is to experience what it is like to have a life coach. By having your own coach, you can focus on the areas of your life you would like to improve, plus it gives you an understanding of how the process works. I took on the CoachStart™ program and found it very effective - it allowed me to practice my skills in a safe environment with some constructive feedback.

Case Study: The client of a life coach

Jane is a 26 year old event manager and former aerobic instructor, who has had two months of life coaching.

'I can't remember exactly where I heard of life coaching - I think it was in a women's magazine. I looked up life coaching on the internet and found a coach nearby. He does most of his coaching over the phone or via e-mail, but I wanted to meet him in person for the first session. I do all my sessions over the phone now, but the first one it was important I met him face-to-face.

I was curious to find out what life coaching was all about. A lot of people have intentions of becoming a coach when they start being coached, but for me, I really just wanted to see if I could benefit from it. I didn't turn to a counsellor or therapist because they seem to me to be more appropriate for depression or severe emotional problems. I wasn't crying my eyes out or feeling miserable, I was just looking for some direction. I was unhappy, but not depressed. I saw life coaching as a more positive step than counselling or therapy.

The main reason behind my unhappiness was mainly job dissatisfaction. I realised I wasn't the happy person I used to be and I was no longer content with myself. This all came about from a change in job roles.

I had weekly sessions on the phone with my coach. It's a really fulfilling relationship, where he seems to learn a lot from me too. He validates a lot of my thoughts and decisions and reinforces that I can do whatever I choose to. At the onset I had to commit to a few things like making coaching a priority in my life, to start telling the truth, to be nicer to my self and the people around me, and to stop suffering.

I know it sounds like an advertisement, but it's the truth when I say coaching has changed my life and way of thinking. I'm a lot more aware of new opportunities and am open to new things. It's made me realise I can change my life, that it's all up to me - all I need is the courage to make a choice. Coaching can be really confronting so you have to be willing to look at your weaknesses and change yourself. I'm a lot more carefree now because I feel like I have more control. Coaching is completely empowering. I would suggest that people give it a go for at least a month and see where you're at after that.'

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