Health Coach vs Personal Trainer: What are the most important differences?

health coach vs personal trainer
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A quick rundown on health coach vs personal trainer by Jen Bundrant

I had no idea of the difference between ahealth coach vs personal trainer, yet I remember making the decision in my young adult life to eat healthily and join a gym.

Growing up, I was in sports and active outside, so I was always in shape. I ate anything that I wanted with no concern about counting calories, and the exercise I got came from playing outside and doing what I loved.

I had muscle, energy, and mass amounts of confidence. Then, I grew up and found that I couldn’t lose weight no matter what!

I didn’t have my team sport practices to go to multiple times per week. My metabolism all but stopped. Insecurities took over. My health and energy levels declined across the board. It was time to join a gym and watch my caloric intake (no more eating when bored)!

Hitting the gym?

Being young, on my own, and already overwhelmed with adult life, walking into a gym for the first time in my life was pretty traumatic. It seemed like everyone there knew what they were doing and if they saw me walking around like a lost child, they would judge me.

In reality, nobody would give me a second thought, but in that moment, it was enough for me to want to turn around and walk right out of the front door.

Easy Target

I was probably an easy target for the sales team at that gym, because a personal trainer approached me and asked if I needed help. I decided to be honest with him and told him the truth – that I was kind of freaking out. He smiled and was actually really nice about it, and offered me a free personal training session to show me the ropes. 

I knew he was in sales, but I was not about to turn down free help in that moment.

We had a great session. By the end of it I was dripping sweat and I could barely walk, which I took as a good sign. This guy knew what he was doing and I didn’t. I decided to hear him out when he sat me down to go over personal training packages with me.

How a Personal Trainer Changed My Life

I gave in and signed up for a trainer, and it changed my life. I didn’t have a trainer for a long time, but I learned everything I needed to know about how to make my way around a gym, eat right, and get in shape on my own.

I still use the same advice he gave me to this day, years and years later.

Making the decision to change your life for the better can seem intimidating for a lot of people – especially when it comes to making healthier decisions. Personal training is one great option, alongside hiring a personal health coach.

Personal trainers and health coaches might seem like they’re essentially the same, but…

On the surface level, they both help people with their exercise regime and diet. However, there are some pretty big differences between the two.

Personal training is an extremely positive industry that provides education and instruction on diet and exercise that has helped thousands of people find their health. Personal trainers are known for being highly motivational and inspirational for people who struggle with changing on their own.

However, the amount of personal training someone can get will not help people still struggling with self-empowerment, limiting beliefs, or harmful life patterns outside of the gym.

That is the difference between a health coach vs personal trainer.

Health coaching is centered around the client to advance healthy lifestyle changes, goal setting, and accountability.

Instead of informing and instructing the client on exactly what the client needs to change, as personal trainers do, health coaches ask thought-provoking questions and use non-judgmental dialogue to guide the client towards discovering their own aspirations. They help their client tap into their inner resources that gives them the power to take back control over their own lives. 

Unlike how personal trainers set goals to be accomplished in a certain time frame, the health coach process is long-term and ongoing. This is to ensure that any underlying issues are addressed and dealt with to prevent problem recurrence.

Health coaches are there to highlight the positive traits in the client and to help them access inner resources so that the client leaves with the tools they have in themselves to accomplish their goals. 

Rather than just focusing on attaining physical change, health coaches focus on change within the whole person.


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Mike Bundrant
Hi, I'm Mike and thanks for visiting Life Coaching Press. We hope you've enjoyed the news about life coaching and that you'll return soon! You can also find me at the iNLP Center and on PsychCentral.