<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1514203202045471&ev=PageView&noscript=1"/> The Challenge Of Being A 53-Year Old Health Coach | Core Spirit

The Challenge Of Being A 53-Year Old Health Coach

May 31, 2023
Reading time 6 min.

When I started as a personal trainer back in the late 90s, I was in my late 20s. A time in my life when I could train hard and party hard and still stay in good enough shape to pull off the image of a personal trainer.

Move on 25+ years. I am now in my early 50s. No longer a personal trainer (as I don’t have a six-pack, tattoos and a well-trimmed beard), but what I call a Behavioural Health Coach. Yes, I still train hard (most likely harder, as I am much more knowledgeable and humble with what I can do), but certainly not hard partying. I salute you if you can still do both in your 50s.

I have learned that a balance needs to be struck if I want to stay at the level of health that I desire and what my professional role demands.

I talk a good talk when it comes to what is needed to be healthy, I have numerous qualifications and twenty years of experience in coaching clients to back up my talk, but do I walk the talk?

It is not even about walking the talk; it is now more about my health and what it takes to stay healthy personally.

What I mean by that is despite all I have learnt and the great people I have learnt from, it still comes down to finding what works best for me.
One joy from my job and health journey is discovering what works and what doesn’t for my clients and me.

Self-Experimentation is the personal approach when it comes to achieving personal health, and it is a true personal coaching experience.

What you discover about yourself through self-experimentation is only effective for you and is your personal plan. And only you can find that out.

Sure, a coach can help you start and point you in the right direction, but it is down to you to explore and experience the successes and failures of trying to find out what works and doesn’t.

I talk about this because, as a younger coach, I focused more on what I felt was suitable for each client. Why else were they paying for my services? I was to be their coach, guide, educator and motivator. But who was mine?

Who got me to do what I knew I had to do? Who was there to use as an excuse if things didn’t work out? I have had to learn this myself as I went along.

Yes, I know I could have hired a health coach, but you have to realise I knew everything there was to know about being healthy. What else could someone teach me, and what message was I sending to my clients? I tell them they need to build internal motivation and take self-responsibility while I can’t do it myself.

Oh, the folly of being young and confident.

How further could I have been down my health journey if I had reached out? We will never know, and what I do know now is knowledge is the key to success.
Knowledge is what you know, and wisdom is what you do with what you know.

This can only truly be understood through experience. And from experience comes confidence.

As a more mature (yes, a fancy word for older) health coach, I have experienced what has worked and not worked on countless occasions. Thanks to my clients (some of whom have been with me for over 20 years now), I have learnt the art and skill needed to adapt as a coach to different clients.

I love having to put a different hat on for each client and approaching things differently depending on the person who is in front of me at the time. I think this isn't easy, not just learning, but understanding when you are younger or less experienced.

When I started working in gyms, the sales team would divide members into three groups, the 10%, the 20–30% and the 60%. The 10 percenters were the members who would turn up every day at the same time. Gym staff would know all their names and liked doing the stuff trainers liked doing. They even spoke our language and understood us and our passion for getting fit and healthy.

The 20–30 percenters would turn up 2–3 times per week for blocks of 4–6 weeks, but they would come and go depending on what was important in their lives at the time. They would seek advice from time to time, but it was mainly advice we had given them previously, which they had forgotten.

The 60 percenters were a whole different kettle of fish. They would typically flock on mass to the gym in January and partly February and then, like migrating birds, disappear. They didn’t like exercising much but knew it was good for them.

They weren’t that interested in the fine details of how to do an exercise or what a macronutrient was. They just wanted results without much effort or commitment (who doesn’t ah).

How could I, a young PT who has gained all this fantastic knowledge from some of the finest fitness minds in the world, engage with people who are happy to walk on a treadmill and watch tv?

But these were the same people who made up the bulk of the membership, who kept paying their gym fees even when they hadn’t gone to the gym for months. They were the people who were keeping me in a job. They were also the people who needed my help more than the other percenters.

This understanding has been the main driver for my coaching for the last 15–20 years. How do I communicate more effectively with people who are not like me? How do I become the coach who can help everyone, and everyone wants to be helped by?

Over the years, I have moved (too slowly) away from the physical training side of personal training and towards the behavioural-changing approach of personal coaching. Yes, I still deliver physical training sessions to the clients who want them. In fact, I still really enjoy that side of my job.

But personal coaching, instead of personal training, has been more effective in helping my clients become more self-empowered when it comes to performing the necessary health actions needed to achieve their goals. And that turns out to be the holy grail of health and wellbeing.

People taking self-responsibility and self-ownership when it comes to their health.

Yes, we coaches like to be the knight in shining armour when it comes to saving people’s health, but we can never always be there every second of every hour. Our job is to support and guide our clients on the journey they have chosen to take.

In my health journey, I have had to do that. Learn to become self-reliant and take responsibility for what I say I will do. It’s not easy, and it’s hard work. You can’t use anyone or anything else as an excuse for not succeeding. It is all on you. Some people embrace that, and others run from it.

The main lesson(s) I have learnt over the years of coaching and my health journey is that you must learn to persevere. Show grit and determination. And most of all, sit with discomfort.

Only time and experience can teach you perseverance, grit and determination. And the older I get, the more I have come to love the challenge and discomfort that comes with trying to stay strong and healthy at 50 and beyond.

This is now what I try to coach others. As we age, things will become more demanding regarding our health and wellbeing, but that is ok. It also teaches us new skills and appreciation at this stage in our lives. It teaches us that just because we can’t physically do what we used to be able to do, doesn’t mean we still can’t challenge ourselves and push ourselves to achieve new goals and new targets.

I have taken up Ultra-Marathon running (to be fair, there is a lot of walking), where back in my twenties, I competed in 100m and 200m on the track. I never thought I would love long distances, not just for competing but also for all the training that is needed.

But I love seeing what I can now achieve. How far can I go? How will my body hold up and feel afterwards (in a word, ‘sore’)?

More importantly, I want to show my clients and anyone else that you can go out and challenge yourself no matter your age, circumstances and abilities.
You need to want to do it and then put in the necessary work.

So even though it is challenging and tough to stay healthy as a 53-year-old health coach, I still love doing what I do, and as long as my mind and body can keep up, I can’t see why I can’t be a healthy and strong 63-year-old health coach. I guess time will tell. But I can promise you this. I am going to enjoy the journey.

Leave your comments / questions

Afsheen Shah12mo ago

I love the idea of exploring what works best for you and your body.