Why I Became a Holistic Coach
Why I became a holistic lifestyle, nutrition and fitness coach: In this post, I take you back in time so you can get a closer look at the journey that led me into the world of wellness. This story starts back in 1986, when I was seven-years-old, and follows my personal and career path for another 32 years, all the way to the present day (2018).
Let’s get started…
Matters of the heart
My initial interest in athletics, wellness, anatomy and physiology stemmed from experiences I had with my health when I was young. When I was seven-years-old, I began experiencing episodes of tachycardia, in which my heart would race at 220+ beats per minute. To give you a sense as to how this differs from the average heart rate, the heart normally beats at a rate of 60 to 100 times per minute.
My tachycardia incidents were usually accompanied by erratic heart palpitations/flutters, shortness of breath, chest pain, weakness, extreme fatigue, dizziness and fainting spells. My “attacks” happened when I was active as well as when I was feeling stressed or emotional – which was often, since adolescents play and are emotive on a regular basis.
The episodes were disruptive to my lifestyle and caused me a lot of frustration and confusion. It was difficult for me to accept that my body worked differently than many children my age. Multiple trips to hospitals, cardiologists, several rounds of testing and the taking of daily medications ensued for about six more years until I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). I was 13-years-old.
SVT is an abnormally fast heart rhythm which is caused by improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart (above the ventricles). With SVT, the abnormal circuitry in the heart creates a loop of overlapping signals (see diagram above). These faulty electrical connections in the heart or abnormal areas of electrical activity trigger and sustain an abnormal rhythm. When this happens, the heart rate accelerates too quickly and doesn’t allow enough time for the heart to fill before it contracts again. The ineffective contractions of the heart then create the symptoms I described earlier.
Looking back, it is obvious to me that my fascination with the functioning of the body started around that time in my life. Receiving the SVT diagnosis was a catalyst that caused my family and me to consume as much information as we could about cardiology (particularly the causes, function and treatments of supraventricular tachycardia).
My interest in anatomy and physiology grew from that point on… and as I continued to learn, I became more and more curious about why the body and its organs don’t always function the way they are designed to operate.
Wholehearted devotion to sports
After my heart-rhythm disorder diagnosis, physicians told me to limit my activities, to avoid intensity while playing sports, and to sit on the sidelines more often than not. The more I was told not to do, the more I tried to do. (This is a trait that carried with me into adulthood. ;-))
My stubbornness resulted in me ignoring a lot of the doctors’ “advice” (bless my parents) and I pushed anyway. Some days were good; some days were bad. I wasn’t always a compliant patient and that got me into trouble with SVT attacks here and there… but I didn’t let that stop me. I found ways to manage the SVT episodes, adapted my life accordingly and rolled with it as much as I could.
When I was about 13-years-old, I finally convinced my parents to allow me to play sports (soccer was the first sport I played). Soon after, I discovered that I loved moving my body in competitive environments. I became passionate about practicing and improving my skills (I had some catching up to do because other kids had started sports much sooner than me).
I refused to let my condition define me and rarely told anyone that I had a heart condition nor that I had to take medication several times day to treat it. I never wanted SVT to become my identity or a thing that limited me. Looking back, I think having SVT (and starting sports much later than my peers) made me more competitive.
When I was 15-years-old, I had heart surgery to treat my whacky heart. Post surgery, my heart and health improved greatly, my episodes decreased, and I excelled at varsity-level soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school and played lacrosse in college.
While competing, I received many sports injuries which fueled my desire to grow my knowledge about health, physiology, sports injury management and sport/exercise psychology. These experiences with SVT, athletics, sport injuries and my interest in athletic performance and physiology influenced my enrollment into the school of Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ithaca College, where I studied Exercise Science/Physiology, Health and Nutrition.
Stumbling into fitness
Post college, I accidentally stumbled into a career in fitness. I was hired as a personal trainer at a local gym. At the time, I thought it would be a temporary pit stop for me while I decided what I really wanted to “do with my life.” Temporary, it was not. The world of personal training intrigued me and I became committed to it.
Between 2001 and 2009, I fulfilled many roles while working in the commercial world of the health and fitness industry. Some of these roles included being a certified personal trainer, lacrosse coach at the youth and collegiate levels, strength and conditioning coach for local athletic teams, certified cancer wellness specialist, group exercise instructor, corporate wellness consultant, fitness model/ambassador, and a manager at a small fitness studio.
While working these positions, I began to notice a recurring theme. The companies I worked for often promoted a one-dimensional and over-specialized approach to fitness and wellness. As an employee of these organizations, I was told to fit into the mold and use this narrow method to coach clients.
It quickly became evident to me that many health professionals in my field neglected to look at the mind, body, soul and lifestyle as an integrative unit. These trainers, coaches and doctors examined the mind, body, and lifestyle in isolation from each other. Each of these parts were dealt with individually and often, not all “parts” were looked at. (i.e. focus on the exercise component but not nutrition or lifestyle factors). This imbalanced approach treated the symptoms without ever getting to the true root of the problems. For me, this strategy always seemed to go against what common sense dictated is important for achieving optimal health.
When the cause(s) of the symptoms are not tackled, you will never achieve full vitality. We are complicated beings, and the world around us is multi-dimensional. I found myself asking myself why should the manner of improving our fitness and wellness be so linear? I have always felt that in order to restore balance in life (and improve overall wellness), a proactive, holistic, and customized method to health and healing is necessary.
Sadly, as the years went by, I continued to witness that, in the environments I was working in, the application of holistic techniques were not commonplace. This left me unsettled.
Society shifts evolution
Another observation I had (and still have) deals with the impact societal and modern technological shifts have had on people. Through my coaching relationships, I have seen that we humans are being pulled away from our natural environments and biological needs more than ever.
Today’s world has presented us with a sedentary lifestyle over-complicated with fitness machines and nutritional diet trends. Moving away from our natural world has caused the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of our whole bodies to suffer. High volumes of consistent stress has crept into our lives and vitality levels have become impaired. Much of our populations has experienced injury, illness, obesity, depression and compromised mobility because of this.
While working in the health club settings, I knew that in order to help people struggling with above mentioned issues, I had to look at everything going on in their lives, not just fitness. It was essential to look beyond my clients’ fitness and nutrition habits. Sadly, my work domains did not provide me with the proper tools, support or authority to address these components in a holistic way.
This left me frustrated. It was clear to me that I was unhappy and needed to make a change, but at that time, I was unsure what that change should (or could) be.
The sentence that shifted my health’s trajectory
Another significant event in my life that launched me toward becoming an entrepreneur and creating a career for myself as holistic coach is when I experienced, first hand, the negative impact stress can have on one’s life.
When I was about 24-years-old, one sentence my parents said to my brother and me one evening changed my life’s trajectory once again. That heart-wrenching sentence was, “Dad has been diagnosed with cancer.” For the next two years my father battled a horrible disease that ended his life at the age of 60. His life was drastically cut short.
What followed for me was a stressful and highly emotional period. My own health soon declined to the point that despite my efforts, I could not stop losing weight, my strength weakened, and full body pain became part of my daily existence. As a personal trainer, this health nosedive was not just a physical blow, but an emotional hit as well.
Trips to conventional doctors concluded with a lot of dismissal, the diagnosis of depression and fibromyalgia, and the prescription of a multitude of prescription pills that were designed only to treat the symptoms, but not the root causes of my pain. The medications made me feel worse than before… and as a person who had been on medications for most of my childhood for my heart condition, I hated the thought of taking more.
My intuition knew there had to be other options for healing. After a few years of feeling defeated, I somehow decided it was time for me to take back my health. I dug deep within my soul, ditched the meds and educated myself on alternatives to the fragmented, compartmentalized “health” prescriptions doctors were giving me.
I started looking at my health and physicality holistically.
A life-changing certification
During that point in my twenties, not only was I trying to heal myself, but I was also juggling personal training clients (in a stressful work environment) and coaching collegiate-level lacrosse. I felt as if I was professionally and personally stalled. I was dissatisfied with my work situation and I continued to fall short when it came to finding sustainable strategies to heal myself.
Luckily, this all changed in 2009 when I discovered the C.H.E.K Institute, an organization that offers fitness and health care professionals an integrated and holistic approach to health, fitness and well-being. Everything about the C.H.E.K’s methods resonated positively for me. The next logical step was to become certified as a C.H.E.K Holistic Lifestyle and Nutrition Coach… and that’s what I did.
That C.H.E.K Holistic Lifestyle and Nutrition Coach certification course was life-changing. Learning about holistic health principles invigorated me and gave me hope for my health and career. I finally had found a strategy to health and fitness that was in line with my thinking.
After I passed the certification, I applied the C.H.E.K coaching methods to my own lifestyle and began experiencing personal gains in all areas of my life. After prioritizing the stressors in my life, I was then able to address them in a holistic and practical way by shifting my nutrition habits and integrating stress and lifestyle management techniques into my daily routine.
I meditated, lessened up on high intensity workouts, identified and stopped eating foods that I had sensitivities to, and much more. My weight improved, my pain decreased, my happiness returned, and my energy soared… all WITHOUT medication! Imagine that!!
It took some time, but it happened. Just like bamboo, I pushed pass adversity, rebounded, and began to thrive. My mind, body and soul experienced a renewal and I became eager to share what I had learned with anyone willing to hear.
Creating paths and finding magic bullets
Now that I was certified as a holistic coach and had experienced the benefits of a balanced approach to wellness, I decided to separate myself from the one-dimensional approaches that surrounded me. Later that year (2009), I left my job as a gym fitness manager and created my own holistic lifestyle, nutrition and fitness coaching business: BambooCore.
Making the move to become a business owner was both terrifying and exhilarating. To this day I am happy I did it. I finally had a platform where I could apply my own methods.
I used holistic coaching techniques to address my clients’ unique physiological profiles and goals and assigned them with integrative and sustainable programs. The holistic strategy worked. My clients succeeded in pushing past their health and athletic adversities. Their wellness and performance improved too.
I felt as if I had found a magic bullet… something that wasn’t accessible at the health clubs and gyms I worked at. I became inspired. I was finally able to shed the frustration I was feeling in my previous workspaces!
Adding to the toolbox
I was feeling pretty well, but I still struggled with nagging injuries leftover from my sports’ days. My quest to heal them proved that traditional athletic training modalities helped to alleviate pain, but did not completely resolve it. I decided I needed a new approach. In efforts to fix my old injuries, I decided to experiment with natural movement exercises and workouts.
Natural movement became part of my personal fitness routines. I expanded my knowledge on how to naturally improve the efficiency of my movement skills. With consistent effort and practice, injuries (like plantar fasciitis) I had for over a decade began to disappear! I became a believer that improving natural movement skills was beneficial for everyone – the injured and non-injured alike.
This fueled my my desire to learn more. In 2012, I became certified as a MovNat Certified Trainer. The knowledge I received from the grueling MovNat certification course gave me more “tools” for my coaching toolbox.
Another piece to the holistic puzzle was found, one that added a fun and practical dynamic to my fitness practice and coaching.
I reclaimed my innate healthy nature, and you can too!
My personal life experiences have fueled my passion for helping people. Overcoming personal obstacles has made me a stronger, passionate and sympathetic health practitioner.
Through the application of natural movement, sound nutritional practices, and lifestyle management principles, I now coach people of all ages, genders, and abilities how to adapt to anything their environment throws at them, regardless of the context. My approach awakens both the body and the mind so that permanent results become a reality.
With compassion and focus, I help people who feel stuck with health, life and physical performance to develop sustainable lifestyle, nutrition, and movement strategies so they can reclaim their innate healthy nature and life a dynamic and adaptable life. My multi-faceted coaching approach lets me help people break away from the aforementioned societal chains. I assesses clients’ lifestyles completely, identify the causes of their sub-optimal wellness levels, and teach each individual how to transition to optimum weight, energy and overall well-being.
Excitedly, I have noticed that more and more practitioners are using a holistic approach to fitness and wellness than what I had seen in the past. I do hope this paradigm shift in the health and fitness industry continues to move us away from specialized and isolated approaches and closer to holistic and integrative methods. I am excited to be a contributor to that paradigm shift!
One of the many things I love about being a holistic health and fitness professional is that I can and will forever expand my knowledge and skills. As a coach, I look forward to learning new modalities, evolving my methods, and sharing all of this with the wonderful people I coach!
So there you have it – my journey toward becoming a holistic health and fitness coach and entrepreneur. My personal life experiences influenced me to create BambooCore, a business that I love. BambooCore has given me the space to help others live life to the fullest.
Spreading awareness about holistic and healthy living to people looking to improve their lifestyle and vitality has been insanely rewarding for me… and I thank each one of you who has worked with me thus far! I look forward to seeing what the future will bring our way, and I will continue to embrace all of the new directions my life and career will move in.
Work with me
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Wishing you health and happiness,
When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.