We massively undervalue coaches in this country. They take on many guises and go by many names but, whatever the moniker, a good coach will have a meaningful and measurable impact on people’s lives. Coaching is a catalyst for positive change; the magic ingredient on a journey towards personal success and fulfilment. Yet coaches do not get the public acclaim or attention they deserve.

Which is why REPs leapt at the opportunity to become an official partner of Coaching Week, joining forces with UK Coaching to shine a spotlight on coaching’s instrumental role in helping to create the conditions for individuals, groups and communities to thrive.

In the health and fitness industry, every bit as much as the sport sector, coaching is an essential element. Carbon may be the building-block of life, but coaching is the cement that binds the building blocks of personal development.

Mix good coaching with human endeavour, and you get a positive reaction every time.

The evidence of coaching’s wow factor is emphatically illustrated below, where Marilise De Villiers Basson charts her transformational journey since teaming up with REPs member Colette Pienaar, who is the founder of Pure Form Fitness.

“Colette helped me get my life back on track: my mental health, my physical health, my business life, my personal life,” is how Marilise summarises the impact great coaching has had on her. “I feel I have got vitality and energy and I can just show up every day being the best version of me that I possibly can be.”

The Ultimate formula for success

Colette runs a coaching programme called The Ultimate Body Formula, which is for ambitious professional women who are experiencing big shifts or changes in their lives.

Colette says women usually get in touch with her when they are experiencing an upheaval at work, in a relationship, reach a milestone in their life or are about go back to work after having children.

Healthy body image is important because it can affect your confidence and self-esteem, and Colette says some women can be sparked into action after seeing an unflattering picture posted by a friend on Instagram or Facebook, triggering a rush of insecurity that fails to dissipate as the days tick by.

She explains that the 16-week programme focuses on uplevelling (making progress or improving a specific area or areas of your life).

“The trigger could be anything that fundamentally shakes them. They tend to have that wake-up moment where they go, ‘I don’t like who I am anymore. Where have I gone? What has happened to me?’ And we work to find that person again and to rewrite the blueprint for their lives.”

The myriad stresses of modern living place a daily strain on our mental well-being, and Colette adds that “nowadays, more than ever before, it is your mind that is telling you all is not well, not your body”.

The programme focuses on health and fitness, nutrition and exercise but also places great emphasis on developing a strong mindset.

“Ultimately, it’s about changing habits and uplevelling your own personal importance on your priority list.”

Images taken between January and July 2018 chart the fitness progression of Marilise

Images taken between January 2018 and July 2018 chart Marilise's physical transformation but she also experienced positive psychological change  

Marilise’s epiphany moment

Marilise got in touch with Colette 18 months ago, when she was going through dramatic changes in her career.

She recalls the chain of events that led to the dawning realisation she needed help to get her body and mind into shape, so she could cope with the unfolding situation at work that was also impacting on her home life.

The epiphany came rapid-fire over one weekend and involved some bathroom scales, a 100-mile bike ride – the RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive – and a landmark birthday that also ended in a zero. 

“I turned 40 on the Saturday and completed the ride on the Sunday. I was very fit and trained hard for it,” said Marilise.

“But I got on the scales for the first time in years after the ride and realised I was a lot heavier than I should be. So, though I was fit, I was feeling fat. It culminated in me realising I had to look after my health.

“Around the same time, I had been going through some tough experiences at work and my mental health suffered as a result of that, to the point where I decided to leave my former employment and set up my own business. I didn’t see any way out and didn’t want to carry on working in an environment where I had to fight all these battles every day.”

Marilise admits when she entered the programme she envisaged it being predominantly exercise-based. She was mistaken. For starters, the nutrition element was “a big eye-opener”.

“I completely redesigned the way I was eating and introduced foods into my diet I had never eaten before. The whole science and evidence-based side of learning about food was fantastic.

“The mindset work I did with Colette, meanwhile, was what really propelled me into setting up my own business and gave me clarity around what I wanted to do in life.

“At the point I signed up for the programme, I just very much wanted to feel alive again. I realised that I was mentally and physically rock bottom. It wasn’t a strategic move, I just couldn’t do it anymore and Colette made me realise I had to prioritise myself and my relationship with my husband and two children and that to do that I had to be the best version of me. So, the mental side was absolutely huge and, amongst other things, I learned how to overcome my fears and limiting self-beliefs.”

‘Lifestyle change, for life’ is no quick fix

The 16-week program is delivered online, with clients given access to a membership site. However, Colette describes it as a hybrid programme – blending online resources and telephone support, and face-to-face consultation if the client lives nearby.

“It is very much hands-on,” explains Colette. “If clients are local to me they are invited to a fortnightly weigh and measure. As a minimum, we share an hour on a coaching call once a week and they check in with me via my app on a weekly basis. This is the equivalent of a weekly weigh and measure. But I am available for help as and when people need it and, as Marilise lives close by, we ended up seeing each other a lot more than once a week.”

The before and after photos speak volumes, with Marilise achieving the figure she aspired to, while juggling running her own business and doing consultancy work with being a full-time mum.

“And the best thing is, I’ve managed to sustain my results more than a year after finishing the programme,” she adds proudly. “You have to allow yourself to live and enjoy things – like a glass of wine or a cheat meal – without feeling guilty or beating yourself up about it. Just do it in moderation.

“I never once saw the programme as a quick fix. This was all about changing habits and I went into it thinking, ‘this is going to change my life forever’. Colette very much primes you to approach it as a lifestyle change, for life.”

Colette adds: ‘These things don’t come easily but all you need to do is find the right recipe for you, the right coach for you, the right programme and then stick to it. So often in life we try and make our way on our own without putting up a hand for help.”

Colette’s words echo those of Ziad K Abdelnour: “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”

As a financier and Wall Street trader, he is about as far removed from coaching as you can possibly get. But he is also a philanthropist, and the sentiment contained in those words is applicable across all sectors.

Having a coach by your side to nurture your progress and act as a mentor through challenging times can be a smart move. Why struggle on your own in the face of a daunting challenge if support is at hand? Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Colette experienced her own 'wake-up moment' before 'rewriting the blueprint for her life

A person-centred approach

It is the role of the coach to convert people’s motivations into action. But before they can influence them, they must take the time to understand the person in front of them.

Colette says it should go without saying that a person-centred approach is critical to getting the desired results.

“I think people very often want the magic pill that is going to change them instantly and of course that doesn’t happen because there is no congruency between where they are on their journey and where they ultimately want to be. It's about understanding their dreams and motivations because the real reasons for wanting transformation will be their motivation once self-control fails.

“I do quite a lot of gap analysis work with people [the comparison of actual performance with potential or desired performance] and find that that is the most effective way to paint a picture of where they want to be, and then I can tweak and tailor the core programme around that.”

Colette’s impact on Marilise was such that she caught the coaching bug and is now certified as a high-performance coach herself.

Not only did Colette’s holistic coaching methods stimulate a change in Marilise’s physical appearance and improve her emotional and psychological strength, it changed her whole outlook on life by empowering her and equipping her with newfound confidence, courage and conviction to pursue her personal goals.

“For me, what was really great about Colette’s technique and what I am now using myself is the idea that people need to be able to discover these things for themselves and, while it may sound obvious, as a coach you have to be very skilled at asking the right questions and probing in the right way to be able to help that person on their journey of self-discovery.

“I have learned there is an art too to pushing the individual so they actually progress. You are coaching them but you are also upskilling them and giving them knowledge and skills, so it’s almost like being a life coach, traditional coach and trainer rolled into one.”

Healthy body plus healthy mind equals healthy life

I ask Colette how it makes her feel to know she has been instrumental in helping to transform people’s lives?

“It makes me feel incredibly proud to see people trust me and then to go through that process and make those changes and see those changes working. I’ve walked the path myself so I know how hard it is.”

Shifting the flab and feeling fab may have been the sole focus of health and fitness professionals and personal trainers in days gone by, but this is 2019, and mindset coaching should form an essential part of every coach-client relationship.

“I think people are becoming more aware of the broader impact of feeling better and looking better, because it affects your relationship, it affects your work life, it affects your lifestyle. There’s a more intrinsic connection now to your lifestyle and looking after yourself and making sure you can do the things you want to do because you are well enough, mentally as well as physically.

“It’s great that people are being better educated about mental health. It has been in the media a lot, with a lot of coaches coming out and speaking about it, and social media has had a massive impact too.”

Coaching has given Marilise a new lease of life. Thanks to the great chemistry between coach and client, she has rediscovered her joie de vivre and is now a high performing businesswoman as well as a high performing coach. She is, you might say, in her element.

Visit the UK Coaching website all this week for more case studies and videos showcasing the wide-ranging benefits of great coaching.