What does a health coach do? Where might you find one in Western North Carolina? And how do you find one best suited to your health needs?
WNC’s wellness industry is evolving, with an increasing number of self-care options. Health coaches help to bridge divides between traditional and alternative modalities. The world’s largest nutrition school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, defines a health coach as “a wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices.” That broad statement can be applied in a multitude of areas — from mental health care to physical exercise, diet, nutrition and more. These are all wellness fields where health coaches are found, and their respective areas of practice help to define their training and certification. Not every industry, however, requires a license to practice.
Many health coaches work as personal trainers, focusing on exercise as a significant component of health. Personal trainers are not required to have certification, professional training or even experience in North Carolina. Nevertheless, they have an important role in providing motivation and support for physical fitness.
Kevin Martin, co-owner of Plank Fitness, says he turned away from “big box” gyms and toward smaller, more personalized fitness studios where he could be more effective. “I’ve always had trouble with the title ‘personal trainer,’” he says in the upstairs physical therapy room of his two-story fitness studio near Biltmore Village. “I know lots of dudes doing that as a hobby, and that’s fine. Some people call themselves personal trainers just because they’re into fitness,” Martin continues. “A health coach defines so many more pieces of this work, including the lifestyle aspect of healthy habits and how to integrate them into your life to take steps toward better health,” he says.
As a certified trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, Martin began his studies as a pre-med student but then gravitated toward nutrition. He says he didn’t agree with the outdated Standard American Diet curriculum being taught in med school. As an avid cook, he began a personal chef business — cooking healthy, customized meals for families. He also began apprenticing alongside personal trainers in both the “big box” and small studio fitness facilities. After working for several years in Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn., he moved to Asheville and continued working as a trainer before opening Plank Fitness four years ago.
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