Puzzle Pieces

Five years ago I wanted to become a personal trainer. Partly because I had a personal trainer and I adored him. He taught me how to navigate my way through the weight room, the grocery store and my kitchen. I was able to rise to a level of health and happiness that I had never experienced before and I truly wanted to share that experience with other women.

So I studied and received my certification as a fitness trainer and in the years that followed I received additional certifications in fitness nutrition and exercise therapy. I had the knowledge and I had the experience and I was ready for the clients.

Or, so I thought.

Initially, all I wanted to do was teach women how to lift weights. My vision was small. I was focused on the weight room and the fact that so many women shied away from that area of the gym. Even today, during my own workout I was the only woman in the weight room surrounded by a bunch of men. So, it is usually my goal to introduce strength training to women in order to improve their overall health and strength. I thought it would be easy because after all, doesn't everyone want to be healthier? Of course they do, but there were a few lessons that I had to learn along the way.

First of all, I had to stop thinking about my goal and focus on the goals of my potential clients. Secondly, we each have a different path to healthy. Third, and most importantly, a healthy lifestyle is not just about the physical. In other words, a healthy lifestyle is not only achieved in the gym and in the kitchen.

I had to expand my thinking beyond being a personal trainer and really become a health coach. A personal trainer's focus is the physical body and how to help a client lose weight , burn fat and build muscle. And while all that is important, a health coach focuses on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle: physical health, mental health and spiritual health.

Back in 2012 when I hired my personal trainer I was at a point in my life where I was ready to improve my physical health. I was coachable. However, prior to that I had some work to do on my mental health and my spiritual health. In 2010, I went through a pretty traumatic experience. I was angry and I was lost. During the years that followed, I spent a lot of time working on my mental health. I saw a therapist, I rediscovered the things that I liked about myself and I slowly found my way back to happy. I also found a new church home and became active in a small group within the church where we would gather once a week to fellowship and pray for one another. By the time I met my trainer in 2012, I was ready to complete the picture by adding the third piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle.

I had tried several times to "get healthy" in the gym but my attempts failed because (1) I didn't know what I was doing (2) I believed all I needed was a better body to be happy and (3) I didn't have the other two pieces of the puzzle.

A healthy lifestyle has to include all three components. As a health coach I am passionate about teaching women how to be healthier in all three areas of their lives. I teach them not to focus solely on the physical because that one component alone can't sustain a truly healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle is a like a puzzle and without all the pieces the puzzle is incomplete. Here are some ways that you can develop and maintain all the pieces of the puzzle:

5 Ways to Maintain Mental Health

* Check in with yourself regularly to make sure that you are okay. If you're not, acknowledge those feelings and work toward resolution

* Remind yourself of your own greatness

* Don't keep your feelings bottled up, share your concerns with someone you trust.

* Do something nice for someone else. Take the focus off yourself and put it on someone else.

* Seek help from a mental health professional if necessary.

5 Ways to Maintain Spiritual Health

* Accept that there is something in this world greater than you (for the record, I am a Christian and that "greater" thing is God)

* Connect with that force daily through prayer and meditation

* Stop stressing over things that are out of your control

* Start each day with a sense of gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal and list those things that you are grateful for.

* Surround yourself with positive people and eliminate the negative people.

5 Ways to Maintain Physical Health

* Eat whole, nutritious foods and drink plenty of water. Take on an attitude of moderation, not deprivation

* Strength training to keep your body strong

* Cardiovascular exercise for a strong heart

* Get plenty of sleep

* Supplementation if your diet does not provide all the necessary nutrients

The bible says in 1 Timothy 4:8 "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." The first time that someone pointed this verse out to me, I was offended. I felt like that person was criticizing me for spending so much time in the gym. That may have been what they meant at the time, but that is not what the verse means. It is simply saying that our focus should not be totally on the physical. What I know for sure is that once you include the mental and spiritual pieces to the puzzle the physical piece will more easily fall into place.

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