Although the Personal Trainer is known as a reference figure in the fitness sector for optimising physical results, a new trend is beginning to emerge, the Fitness Coach or Wellness Coach , coaching in healthy lifestyle.

The fitness coach helps and inspires you to set your own goals and achieve them, by generating powerful and creative conversations that are thought-provoking and help you find ways to reach your goals and maintain your new healthy habits forever .

In the sessions we work on different topics such as food, exercise, sleep, stress, emotions, weight, tobacco…

You can find the Fitness Coach in your “gym”, but his work and results go beyond the fitness rooms. The Fitness Coach fits perfectly in modern gyms where the new trend, the wellness , proliferates, and as a consequence, instead of finding rooms full of machines, is now moving to centres where there is not only a space to train the muscles, but also relaxation activities (such as spa, massage cabinets, saunas), group classes (yoga, pilates, tai-chi…) together with leisure and relaxation areas (cafeterias, hairdressers and beauty salons).

What is Wellness?

To this day, there are still many interpretations as to the definition of fitness and wellness. The Fitness could be considered as a equivalent of “physical condition” or “being in shape” . Fitness is based on two fundamental pillars: physical activity and healthy eating . It allows the person to improve cardiovascular resistance, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, provides more agility and balance, speed, toning; all this accompanied by a correct and balanced diet. If necessary, consuming the appropriate supplementation in each particular case, but never, anabolics. Sometimes, fitness is confused with bodybuilding, but the latter focuses on achieving a definition and volume of extreme muscles in symmetry, sacrificing the overall well-being of the person and functionality.

On the other hand, the concept or philosophy Wellness is considered a more global term. It would not only encompass fitness as the improvement of physical condition, but it goes further and uses fitness as a means to improve health, providing longevity, quality of life and beauty . In other words, wellness as a synonym of physical, psychological and emotional well-being . It is no longer only about being in shape, but also about seeking a balance between body and mind .

Coaching in the gym

The staff of the fitness rooms and gyms has grown in recent years with qualified professionals in physical activity, sport or health sciences. At the end of the 20th century, personal trainers were confident in their knowledge of physical activity and biomechanics, thinking that they were sufficient to keep clients adhering to their programmes and to get them to improve their lifestyle. As time has passed, many have realized that instruction and technical support are not enough to cover the diversity of clients’ agendas and the need for individualized treatment of clients. If the client’s commitment is to be maintained, other variables must be taken into account, especially psychological ones .

Research on the factors that influence exercise led experts to explore the emotional and nutritional needs , and often revealed lifestyle patterns that were harmful, behaviors that were addictive, and personal and family challenges that interfered with achieving goals . With respect to these aspects, it was necessary for them to be redirected in order to follow the training successfully. Even before psychology and coaching appeared in fitness centres, personal trainers were already aware of the need for communication skills and intervention models in these areas.

The inclusion of the Fitness Coach in the fitness rooms has given access to appropriate methods for working with clients in these areas . Two questions then arise regarding the Fitness Coach and the Personal Trainer: “Which method works best,” “Are the two methods equally effective for all clients? .

In order to answer these two questions, it is necessary to understand how both models work.

Fitness coach vs Personal Trainer

Clients who want to hire a fitness coach instead of a Personal Trainer should know that they will find two different work methodologies and two different communication techniques s. The Fitness Coach will prioritize relationship building and communication . He will focus on clients’ stories and strategies, and will provide motivational and supportive messages (e.g. using NLP techniques). Although some coaching schools recommend giving advice, most coaches encourage the client to arrive at the answer alone by using powerful questions (Socratic questions) that challenge and confront their self-perceptions and limiting beliefs .

It is a process of research and personal discovery to help the client become more aware, identify and take responsibility for realistic goals, with a focus on strategies, actions and feedback.

The Personal Trainer may have similar aspects, but is more focused on instructions and technical information . In addition, he uses a more practical approach by guiding the client during the exercises and training, with a directive style of communication, and by creating a dependency relationship with the person he is guiding . Personal trainers are more concerned with defining their role as experts in physical training and biomechanical knowledge, but they do not encourage personal growth or ensure that the client learns the authentic concept of well-being.

Now, having learned that coaches and personal trainers rely on different work methodologies, it is time to answer the second question I posed earlier: “Do the two methods work the same for everyone?” To answer this question we need to understand the client, as each person is different, has different objectives, unique past experiences and needs that may vary from one to another. Therefore, in order to better understand the client’s needs, we need to understand the Theory of Self-Efficacy by Albert Bandura (1977) , which emphasises the role of what one says to oneself during the process of acquiring the objectives one is trying to achieve, and determines the behaviour and the way of acting in each situation.

Self-efficacy: The key to meeting long-term goals

The Self-efficacy are the judgments and beliefs a person has about his or her abilities to successfully execute a certain task and, therefore, directs the course of his or her action . These expectations determine the preference for certain activities, the motivation, the persistence in such tasks and the emotional responses to various situations. In addition, and very importantly, self-efficacy expectations are variable and context-specific. For example, beliefs will be different when swimming or preparing for marathons. Self-efficacy beliefs are affected by one’s past accomplishments, vicarious learning or observation of others’ behavior, verbal persuasion, or level of emotional activation.

Some clients may come to the gym with knowledge of nutrition and exercise, but are unable to adhere to a training plan or diet. Others will know absolutely nothing about what exercises to do.

The first example refers to people who have mastered self-efficacy related to physical activity, but may have cognitive and emotional difficulties in designing, implementing or maintaining goal-directed behaviors. The second example is for people who need instruction to get started in exercise and will therefore need a managerial style to get off to a good start, achieve rapid results and avoid injury.

Observing the self-efficacy of clients from different angles will allow us to identify people who need to improve their physical ability to achieve their goals, or will give us information on people who need to improve their cognitive and emotional competencies to successfully manage the transitions needed in a process of change.


In short, people can count on skills and competences that are a necessary but not sufficient condition to achieve the objectives . One of the variables that influence the acquisition of goals is the perception of self-efficacy, that is, the expectation of success that the person has when faced with a particular situation, depending on the resources that he/she believes he/she has and the characteristics of the situation and the context.

A person can avoid situations in which he or she doubts his or her ability, no matter how suggestive a certain objective may be, by believing that he or she does not have the necessary resources to achieve it. The perception of self-efficacy is key in the coaching process and is necessary to achieve long-term goals . The Personal Trainer can have very useful tools and the Fitness Coach can have them too. The ideal to be a good professional in this field is to possess the necessary competences to be able to use both forms of work according to the needs of the client .