Michael Mayotte's easygoing personality doesn't seem like the drill sergeant many of us might imagine in a wellness coach. In fact, his No. 1 piece of health advice is to have fun.
Fun? Doesn't getting healthier mean trading in desserts for diets? The couch for crunches? Twinkies for tofu?
Small steps for a healthier lifestyle
"Small tweaks can make a big difference. Just 150 minutes of activity a week – 30 minutes a day for five days – can lower your blood pressure and get your heart in better shape," he said. The key is finding an activity you enjoy.
"You aren't going to do something you hate, so if running isn't your thing, pick something else," he said. "Even walking your dog more often can be beneficial. I help people find activities they like and can fit into their everyday life."
Mayotte enjoys running, but his favorite activities are soccer and Frisbee golf because they make him feel like a kid again.
"Remember when you were little? Exercising was fun and most of the time, you didn't even realize you were doing it," he said.
Health coaching works
People of all ages, sizes and fitness levels are among clients at Y Healthy Living Centers. You don't have to be a YMCA member and the wellness coaching is free.
All the wellness coaches at Y Healthy Living Centers work to ensure they promote a "no judgment zone." Mayotte recalled one client coming in after missing a few coaching sessions, saying, "You're going to be mad at me." Instead, Mayotte helped her focus on going forward.
"Everyone is going to have ups and downs, and that's OK. We all have birthday parties, vacations and holidays. It's about making small changes along the way toward your goal and getting back on track," he said.
One of the first steps is usually a health screening, which includes checking blood pressure, body composition, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. Each session lasts about an hour. Getting a health screening isn't mandatory, Mayotte said, but it's a good idea because it gives you a baseline to see your progress.
"Every client is different and so are their goals. For some, it's maintaining their health and for others, it's stepping it up to the next level. Whatever a person's goals are, our job is to be by their side to help them get there," Mayotte said, adding it's not uncommon for him to email or call with an encouraging word.
That's what he likes most about his job – getting to know people and helping them achieve a healthy lifestyle.
"My favorite part is the look on someone's face when it all clicks and they begin to understand how much control they have over their own health," he said. "It's neat to see people turn their health around."