HCANZA caught up with the inaugural winner of the Health & Wellness Coach of the Year Award, Sharon Tomkins. Based in New Zealand, Sharon runs her own coaching practice, Zeal Lifestyle & Fitness Coaching, specialising in health and wellness coaching for women.
Tell us a little about your coaching practice, what you’re doing, and who you help?
I trained to be a Coach around the time the first iPhone came out; not the smartphone but the first one people wanted to buy; it was fitted with a 2MP camera, had no 3G and couldn’t record video. It’s fair to say that, like the iPhone, my Coaching practice has evolved too. But one thing has stayed the same, my heart to create a vibrant centre of health and well-being for women.
Like, many other Coaches, it was my personal development journey that first led me to train as a Coach. After I qualified, I wanted to continue that journey, so I often prioritised opportunities to help me grow rather than those that gave immediate financial gain. This has led to a broad and diverse portfolio of clients and work. Because when I began my business, social media was in its infancy, I grew my practice through recommendations and referral business (the slow burn approach).
I run my coaching practice from home and have created a specifically designed Coaching space that helps build safety and calm so that my clients feel at ease. I chose specific pieces of furniture, plants, pictures and colours to create an atmosphere where possibilities could be explored. I work in person and via ZOOM. Offer 1-to-1, Group Coaching and occasionally workshops too.
My approach is holistic. As well as being a qualified health coach, I’m a personal trainer. This allows me to create hybrid packages that help people develop their health goals and receive fitness training to support their journey. Most of my clients are women over 45 who come from a variety of backgrounds and who want to see real change in their lives.
I support a couple of charities and offer pro-bono coaching as my way to give back and contribute to the community.
I help train Health Coaches through PREKURE.
I often collaborate with other Health Professionals, and it’s always great to be a fly on the wall and watch the great things that happen when I pay it forward and can bring together connections from across my business network.
I recently gained my Coaching Supervisor qualifications and have taken on a small number of Supervision clients.
What do you love most about being a health coach?
Helping my clients achieve their health and fitness goals is just the start. I watch people discover themselves in new ways they never thought possible and see their joy from regaining their health. I love witnessing the satisfaction of, in their words, “turning my life around”.
Hearing clients reflect on what’s important to them, test their beliefs, and create fresh ways to tackle issues—being alongside as a thinking partner never grows old. I love helping them find the resources and information to make healthy habits that serve them better.
It’s a great day when a client who struggled to get up off the floor when they first came to me does so easily or others who grasp how they’ll build upon their strengths of perseverance and courage to lose weight. Most end up exercising more and making other healthy lifestyle changes, resulting in increased energy levels, stress reduction, better sleep, and overall health. Knowing that I played a tiny part in their journey gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
How did you feel when you found out you had won a HCANZA award?
When I received notification that I’d been nominated for the Health and Wellness Coach of the Year Award, it was a big surprise, and I felt incredibly honoured. To be awarded the prize on the evening in front of my fellow professionals was amazing. At the time, I felt emotional and somewhat overwhelmed. This was the first time in Australia and New Zealand that health coaches were recognised for our everyday work. And I felt a deep sense of responsibility to be a leader at that moment and represent what it means to be a health coach well; Immediately after, I felt enormously humbled that I’d won, mainly because I’d talked to the incredible people who were also nominated.
Following the awards, knowing that clients and colleagues took the time to nominate me for this award has reinforced how we can positively impact people’s lives and wellbeing through our everyday work as Health coaches. It’s great to know that people do notice and value when we go the extra mile to help them make lifestyle changes that support them. When my work gets challenging and manic, as it has over the last two years with COVID, remembering the positive impact that’s been recognised really does help keep me motivated.
Why is having an industry association, such as HCANZA, important to you?
There’s nothing more frustrating than explaining your coaching struggles to people who don’t understand the industry. Having tried to discuss my coaching business with my nearest and dearest, I’ve got the T-Shirt on receiving conflicting advice from those unaware of the industry’s expectations or telling me that the client I failed to land or my worries around privacy and the storage of client information, will be OK.
There’s nothing better than that feeling of relief when you have meaningful conversations with fellow coaches that GET IT because they’ve been there too.
Whether connecting with like-minded health professionals or keeping my finger on the pulse of lifestyle medicine and best practices, being part of an industry association like HCANZA is crucial to me being a happier and more effective Health Coach. Plus, in an unregulated industry, my clients have the assurance that they can refer to an independent professional body should the need arise.