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Customized Coaching

Customized Coaching

Personalized wellness plans target health and fitness


By Megy Karydes

Often, a doctor will dole out a recommendation to eat right and exercise. But it can be hard to know what actions to take.

Should we be sweating it out with cardio or practicing restorative yoga? What if we’re recovering from cancer or have a chronic disease like ulcerative colitis? How do we take our lifestyle or personality traits into account?

If only there were a coach who could provide a detailed, customized plan for health and fitness, much like a personal trainer oversees workouts at the gym.

Two innovative Chicago companies have designed personalized programs meant to connect what our healthcare providers tell us to fitness approaches that consider individual time, motivation and capability.

To see how the programs work, I dutifully filled out a questionnaire at one of the companies, GhFITLAB. The answers help coaches customize a health and fitness plan that capitalizes on an individual’s strengths and interests.

The coach I met with told me to stick with boxing—it’s a good fit for my personality—but to add resistance training, which would provide the variety I crave. I also learned that the water in coffee does not count toward my daily water intake (who knew?), so now I cart around a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.

Customizing health for better results

By integrating psychologically based coaching with personally formulated exercises, GhFITLAB coaches are able to help clients maximize their potential for sustainable change.

Mark Grazman, co-founder of GhFITLAB, with locations in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood and Glenview, says his team of professionals meets each client where they are physically and psychologically, as well as from a health and lifestyle perspective.

“We don’t make them become something they are not, push them to do something that will hurt or hope they will suddenly conform to some textbook standard,” he explains. “We meet them where they are in the real world and then methodically move them forward.”

GhFITLAB’s personalized exercise, health and psychologicalcoaching program begins with a test of 180 “true or false?” questions. It asks how you feel about specific activities, how you approach tasks and challenges and how you react when given directives.

“This series of questions allows us to understand each client’s unique motivation and psychology,” Grazman says. “We use this information so that we can coach them specifically as they should be coached.”

As a result of the questionnaire and a battery of other tests, GhFITLAB delivers “exercise doses” to each client with precisely what they need to maximize their health—in only two hours per week.

Bringing together the elements of health

Similarly, Ari Levy, MD, founder and CEO of River North-based SHIFT, understands that everyone’s lives and demands are different. His team takes those unique circumstances into account when working with members to develop customized plans.

While traditional medical care is an important part of stayinghealthy, Levy adds, “Perhaps even more important are the habitsand choices you make every day that contribute to your health.”

One of the challenges facing most of us today is information overload. While there are so many directives on how to live a healthy life, most people don’t know what applies to them.

“Helping our members identify those opportunities and make the right choices, even when life makes it hard, is what makes SHIFT unique,” Levy says.

Medical care, fitness, nutrition, recovery and other aspects of health are addressed separately in today’s healthcare world. Individuals can have a hard time making sense of the different recommendations, he says.

“At SHIFT, a single supportive voice brings these elements together and helps members build and improve their quality of life,” Levy adds.

Both Grazman and Levy say commitment, consistency and small changes over time are what lead to success, even if you lead a busy life.

Levy says he meets with a lot of clients who struggle to fit healthy choices into their schedule but that by approaching changes step-by-step they can make a real difference in their overall wellbeing.

“When they start to track the choices they’re making every day, sharing that information with their physician and/or coach and identifying small changes that they can incorporate immediately, they see results,” Levy says.

“Those early wins give them confidence to move on to bigger challenges. Before you know it, they’re experiencing fewer symptoms, reporting greater energy and even the results of their medical testing begin to improve.”

The real benefit to these programs is the customized approach to health, which takes into consideration a person’s entire lifestyle. Unlike personal trainers who only consider your physical health, or physicians who focus primarily on what your lab work shows, GhFITLAB and SHIFT take a more holistic approach, making good health easier and more accessible.

Originally published in the Spring 2017 print edition. Above photo courtesy of GhFITLAB. Photo by Edyta Grazman

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