Today’s health clubs offer a variety of “perks” to drive new business and attract the interest of consumers: free visits, free classes, free child care and kid-friendly activities, live music, eat-in cafes and even fully stocked bars.

One common approach has been to offer free consultations or sessions with a personal trainer. While this makes sense to anyone in the industry, it may not always result in higher membership numbers. After all, new customers aren’t always “fit” customers and the prospect of working out with a trainer can be intimidating.

There is, however, one feature that may help your club create a new bridge to new business: health coaching. Read on to learn why this holistic approach to fitness, nutrition and overall well-being may be the missing link in your fitness business.

What Is a health coach?

A health coach is a fitness professional whose work with clients focuses on three key areas: behavior change, increasing physical and leisure-time activity patterns, and assisting clients in developing healthy eating practices. The health coach prioritizes the development of a fit lifestyle — not just a client’s physical fitness or physique. Ultimately, the work of a health coach is about guiding clients toward a balanced lifestyle through strategic and individualized behavior-modification efforts.

Why every fitness club needs a health coach

As the focus within the health and fitness industry continues to shift from appearance-based to lifestyle-based goals, the addition of a certified health coach becomes increasingly valuable. To make healthy choices, clients need more than a workout program; they need relevant, applicable and skill-based strategies to influence positive and sustainable behavior change. By changing the habits that drive behaviors that influence client choices, health and exercise professionals begin to harness their collective talents to synergistically and steadily shift the landscape of America’s health. That is powerful.

Your fitness club 2.0: How a health coach can step-up your game

Including a certified health coach as a member of your staff (or on a contract basis) allows you to broaden the scope of services your facility offers. This is both a draw to consumers and a source of revenue for your club. Imagine being able to market a changed lifestyle — not just a changed body — to consumers. If the focus is on changing the client’s overall lifestyle, physical changes are more likely to follow naturally.

A health coach is also a source of motivation and encouragement. This is particularly important for clients who are ambivalent to change or who are struggling to find a harmonious balance in their lives. Unlike personal trainers (who may assess their clients’ fitness levels and then design and implement appropriate exercise programs), certified health coaches employ the foundational principles of coaching to work with individuals in identifying health-related goals and collaborating on successful strategies to achieve them.

Where to start

While a health coach is not always a personal trainer, this doesn’t preclude you from encouraging your existing staff to pursue a health coach credential, or from having a health coach onsite to serve and assist club members. Consider ways in which you might incentivize your staff to pursue this certification: offer to pay for all or part of the study materials or the exam fee; partner with a health-coaching company to give your employees an onsite, packaged study course; or simply tap a partner in the fitness, healthcare or corporate wellness marketplaces to provide health coaches when and where you need them.

If you’re going to “create” your own health coaches by educating and certifying your staff, ensure you’re implementing  an accredited health coach certification. Choose a certification that speaks to you and the mission of your business. In addition to choosing an accredited certification, be sure that the organization you choose aligns with both your business values and the needs of the consumers you serve.  

Adding a certified health coach to your staff can have an immeasurable return on investment. Are you ready to step-up your game and elevate the services your business offers?