The Well Coach

Jan Johnson leads an osteoporosis class at the Therapeutic Fitness & Sports Center in Old Saybrook, a facility run by Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.
Jan Johnson leads an osteoporosis class at the Therapeutic Fitness & Sports Center in Old Saybrook, a facility run by Lawrence & Memorial Hospital. Sean D. Elliot

These days, it's not enough to just eat right or exercise, or even both.

When it comes to personal health and well-being, many of us probably need a bit of help once in a while, maybe a push in the right direction to outline our goals and to achieve success.

If it were easy, everyone could just go it alone.

But it's not, and that's where Jan Johnson comes in.

As a certified "well coach," Johnson acts as a client's personalized cheering section. At Lawrence & Memorial Hospital's Therapeutic Fitness & Sports Medicine Center in Old Saybrook, she helps individuals identify life goals they want to achieve and then helps clients map out a plan to get there.

"Well coaching is just how it sounds. The coach teaches people how to help themselves be well," says Brandon Meuse, a licensed athletic trainer and physician relations coordinator at L&M.

Some of Johnson's clients have been with her for the two years that she's worked at the Old Saybrook facility.

In her role as a fitness instructor, Johnson often works one-one-one with clients with free weights, stretching bands and exercise machines, similar to a personal trainer.

But as a well coach, she takes her involvement with the client's progress a step further.

"Some people just need help figuring out what vitamins they need to take and some want help shopping for the right foods," she says.

Johnson initially helps her clients create a specific weekly statement and discussed with them what they can do to live up to that statement. Instead of telling clients what she wants or expects them to do, she asks them open-ended questions to help them figure out issues for themselves.

"I ask them how they found success in the past and encourage them that they can find success again," she says. "In their own words, I help them set their goals and then work to help them bring them out."

And the level of success depends on the person.

It could mean losing 10 pounds, taking a daily vitamin, regaining flexibility or becoming more centered in your personal life.

One client, says Johnson, was so addicted to chocolate that she found herself overindulging. So she worked with the woman and helped her realize that totally cutting the sweet out of her diet was unrealistic.

Instead, she now limits herself to five Hershey's Kisses a day, just enough to whet her sweet tooth, but not so much that she feels guilty when she's done eating.

"When people say it out loud, it suddenly becomes clear to them," what they need to do, says Johnson, of personal goals. "I just help them figure out what is holding them back."

During the first one-hour meeting, either on the phone or in person, Johnson encourages the client to create a vision statement, one that they will refer to during their lifetime. They also create a three-month one that is not as specific.

The goal, says the well coach, is to get women to focus not just on their physical self, but the outside factors that can lead to them feeling unbalanced on the inside.

At the Old Saybrook site, part of the well coaching program involves lectures that draw on experts from the dietary, medical and pharmalogical fields. The free sessions focus on topics geared toward women.

Johnson also coordinates the center's osteoporosis program, which currently has a group of seven to eight women who meet for one hour twice a week. The program helps participants focus on balance and strength, two traits affected by osteoporosis.

The center also has a fitness wing, where women can go to get intensive personal training or one-on-one yoga sessions. Gone is the intimidation factor some women feel, and fear, when entering a big-box gym.

"A lot of time women feel guilty about doing stuff for themselves," Johnson says, "but to be a good mom or wife, you need to take time for yourself. It really empowers them to do whatever it is that they want to do."

Lawrence & Memorial Hospital's Therapeutic Fitness & Sports
Medicine Center

Old Saybrook Medical
Office Building

633 Middlesex Turnpike,
Old Saybrook

860.388.5881

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